For several years I created recipes for my Food for Thought column in Yummy Northwest, and loved every minute of it. The website is in the middle of a transformation, so all of my past columns are archived for now, but you can still read them at any time. This Easter I’m posting photos of my Yummy Northwest favorites, with links to the recipes.
Hot Cross Buns and Kulich were two recipes I created for an old-time Easter theme. This link will take you to both recipes:Old Time Easter Treats
Little bread bunnies, birds, and lambs are fun to make, and kid-approved. Using the link below, you’ll find instructions for making bread critters and sugar eggs. Let your creativity loose on this project! I have a Rowdy blog about them, but there’s good info in this column too. Bread Animals and Sugar Eggs
Who says you shouldn’t play with your food? Use your imagination and enjoy!
I can’t even begin to tell you how relieved thrilled I am to be posting this recipe for Savory Bacon Crackers. After countless tries, with results ranging from “marginal” to “close…but no cigar”, I finally produced crunchy, flavorful crackers that got gobbled up by the tasting crew.
I tried making them yeast-based (bleh), I layered the dough with butter (like croissant dough), I baked them hot and fast, and low and slow. I tried chilling the dough for days.
In the end, it was just a matter of getting the proportions right and finding a way to make sure the crackers were crunchy all the way through. These aren’t flaky (like Ritz), but are delightfully light and crunchy, yet still sturdy enough for dipping. And did I mention they taste great?
Crushed bacon adds flavor and texture. Make sure you cook the bacon until it’s extra-crispy. I pan fry mine, then wrap it in paper towels and microwave for a minute or two and shake the bacon out onto another piece of paper towel to cool. Crush with a rolling pin or use a sharp blade – either a knife or an ulu – to make small crumbs.
½ cup finely crushed bacon - about 10 strips (reserve the grease)
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
¼ cup oil (I use peanut oil)
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup water
Heat oven to 425 F.
Grease two baking sheets with bacon grease (or you may use shortening if you prefer)
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, garlic salt, onion powder, pepper, brown sugar, and crushed bacon.
Stir in the liquid smoke, oil, buttermilk, and water. Mix until well combined. This will be a soft dough, but shouldn't be sticky.
Working with half of the dough at a time, either roll between two pieces of parchment (flour dough lightly if necessary) or roll directly onto the baking sheet, dusting the top with flour as needed.. Try to roll the dough out as thinly as possible...less than ⅛-inch. You may cut round shapes out, re-rolling the extra dough, or simply cut into squares or diamonds, using a pizza cutter.
Place pans in preheated oven for 4 minutes. Remove both pans. Brush the tops of the crackers with bacon grease (or butter, if you prefer) and lightly salt. Using a spatula, flip the crackers over.
TURN OFF THE OVEN. Open the door for 20 seconds. Place pans back in the oven, close the door, and leave the crackers to cook slowly for 1 hour, as the oven cools down. Check one to make sure it snaps crisply when broken. If not, leave them in the oven for another 30 minutes.
Brush with bacon grease, sprinkle with salt, flip over, and return to oven.
Do you have any idea how good these would be with my Succulent Salmon Dip? I’d leave the bacon out of the dip (unless you’re a really hardcore bacon fan) and offer a knife to spread the dip on each cracker. Ham spread would be yummy too.
Okay – this was my obligatory savory recipe before I go into full-blown Easter mode. I’ve stocked up on powdered sugar, chocolate, and sprinkles…and will be putting it all to good use soon!
March Madness is here! Six of us bloggers are posting our favorite recipes to brighten up a gloomy month. I brought comfort food, but if you scroll down to the bottom (after you’ve read my post of course) you’ll find the links to the rest of the sweet, delicious desserts.
We never, EVER have enough corned beef left after indulging in our St. Patrick’s Day feast. We love to nibble on it, make huge sandwiches, cook corned beef hash, and (provided I was smart and cooked two pieces) we adore Corned Beef Pot Pie. I’m guessing you will too, so hit those sales after St. Patrick’s Day and put a couple of extra packages of corned beef in your freezer!
Logic would tell you that a beef pie needs beef gravy, but corned beef is different – definitely not your traditional beef flavor. So I use chicken broth in my white sauce, which is delicate enough to allow the amazing flavor of the corned beef shine through.
If you have lots of leftover carrots and potatoes from your dinner, you could certainly use those instead of cooking more; they’d add even more flavor. Aim for 4 cups of veggies, and don’t worry about getting even amounts of each.
For this recipe, I’ll assume you only have leftover corned beef. Need a pie crust recipe? Here’s my favorite:
Never Fail Pie Crust
(makes 2 crusts)
1 cup chilled shortening
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vodka (or vinegar)
1/4 cup milk
Mix flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut in the shortening until it looks like coarse crumbs.
Mix vodka (or vinegar) into milk. Combine all at once into flour mixture.
This can be rolled into crusts immediately, or flattened into disks and placed between sheets of plastic wrap and chilled first in the refrigerator.
Since I like big, thick top crusts, I usually double the recipe and freeze leftover dough. Just sayin’.
If you’re looking for a last minute idea for St. Patrick’s Day, here are some delightful cupcakes. They are filled with ganache made with Irish Cream, but if you’re making these for the kidlings, you can use regular heavy cream instead.
Here’s the recipe, but if you’re in a hurry and need to use a cake mix, I won’t hold it against you. The important part is the filling (whooeee, it’s potent!) and the decorations.
Milk chocolate cupcakes are filled with Irish Cream ganache and decorated with buttercream icing and sour strip rainbows. Makes 24
4 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup Irish Cream liqueur (like Bailey's)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
4 eggs, room temperature - divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup whole milk
2 cups cake flour
¼ cup cocoa
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoons baking soda
Green buttercream icing, sufficient to frost 24 cupcakes
Junior mints (optional to use in place of ganache for pots of gold)
In a small pan on low heat, combine the chocolate and Irish Cream. Heat and stir gently until chocolate is melted and mixture looks well blended. Set aside, stirring occasionally while the cakes are made.
Heat oven to 350 F.
Line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners.
In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy.
Slowly add sugar, beating continuously, and scraping bowl often. Beat until mixture is light and fluffy.
Add egg YOLKS, one at a time, mixing well between each addition.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the vanilla, buttermilk and whole milk.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda.
Beginning with the dry ingredients and ending with the wet, add alternately, approximately ⅓ of each mixture at a time, scraping the side of the bowl often.
Whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into the batter.
Fill cupcake cavities ⅔ full and bake for approximately 20 minutes. A toothpick should come out cleanly when inserted into the middle of a cupcake.
Cool in pans on racks for 5 minutes, and then turn out the cupcakes to cool thoroughly.
Place ganache in a piping bag with a large round tip. Press tip into the center of each cupcake, almost to the bottom, and squeeze gently while pulling the tip back out. Don't try to put too much ganache in each one; they'll crack if you do. The remaining ganache will be used to make the pots of gold.
Cover each cupcake with green buttercream icing. (I used a large closed star tip).
Pipe a round "pot" on each cupcake. With a paintbrush, add gold powder. If you don't have any, yellow frosting or candy will do. OR you can use junior mints, cut the top off so a little white shows, and "paint" it with yellow food coloring.
Place a small strip (about 3" of sour striped candy on each cupcake with one end next to the pot of gold.
A little chewier than a soft pretzel, but not quite as crunchy as a hard pretzel, these beauties go perfectly with an ice cold beer. (Preferably green beer if you’re making them for St. Patrick’s Day.)
I know, I know…pretzels are German, not Irish. But “Irish Knot Pretzels” just didn’t sound as good. Pffft.
If you look at images of Irish Knots on your search engine, there are some great designs you can use. I made simple Trinity Knots and a slightly more complicated Celtic Cross. And by “slightly more complicated” I mean that if you have reasonably good spacial abilities, these will be easy. For you. I struggle with spacial concepts, so my learning curve was really, really big. Looking at a picture and deciding which part of the dough rope went over and which went under…well…let’s just say I should have made a video – just for laughs.
It took me a while, but I finally nailed it. The rest were much easier!
But YOU can do it! Of course, if you don’t want to, you can always just make pretzel bites or sticks. You could also dye the dough green, but the brown outside might have a funky hue to it.
I experimented this time with a lye bath and loved the results. Since I’ve been warned about liability issues, I can’t give you directions or advice about this. However, I will say that the pretzels were delicious. If you’re interested in using lye instead of baking soda, please spend some time searching for safety information and instructions.
Attempting to create a crunchy, hard pretzel was more challenging than I expected. I made a few small changes to my Pretzel Bomb recipe, and was pleased with the results. The pretzels pictured are slightly crunchy with a nice, chewy texture. But being stubborn, I was determined to get more crunch, and learned that putting them back in the oven for an hour at very low heat dried them out satisfactorily. For the record, The Man preferred the chewy version, liking them even more than soft pretzels.
1 egg whisked well with 1 teaspoon water (egg wash)
Heat oven to 350 F.
Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Heat beer until very warm - about 110 degrees.
In a large bowl (preferably using a stand mixer), combine warm beer, 1 teaspoon of the brown sugar, and yeast. Let sit for 6-8 minutes, or until bubbly.
Add remaining sugar, butter, salt, and 3 cups of the bread flour. Mix well.
Slowly add remaining flour. Dough should come cleanly away from the side of the bowl, and will feel slightly tacky. If it's STICKY, add a little more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Knead well - at least 5 minutes if you're using a mixer with a dough hook, or 8 minutes by hand. This will make the dough elastic.
Work with small amounts of the dough at a time, using your hands to roll out thin ropes - about 18 inches long, if possible. Avoid rolling on a floured surface; you need friction! Try slightly spritzing your work surface with water or lightly buttering your hands before rolling.
Create shapes with the ropes of dough. Use the blog photos to form Irish knots, or make your own creations. Set shapes aside until you have enough for one baking sheet.
Bring water and soda to a boil in a large pot. Drop pretzels into water, a few at a time, for 30-40 seconds. Lift with a slotted spoon or spider, and set on prepared pan. Brush lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 30 minutes, or until very dark brown. Repeat with remaining pretzels.
To achieve crunchier pretzels, return to oven set at 250 F for up to 1 hour. Test after ½ hour. If the pretzels are close to being dry, turn off oven and let them sit until cooled.
What else can I tell you? I don’t let the dough rise first for these pretzels, because I’m looking for more crunch and less puffiness. If you’re after a soft pretzel, let the dough rise once for about an hour, punch down, and form your pretzels. Let them rest for 30 minutes before dipping or boiling them.
Keep your extra dough covered while you’re working. A damp cloth is good – even over the pretzels you’ve laboriously shaped while you’re working on enough for a full baking sheet. If the dough in the bowl rises, just punch it down and use it. Or you can let it sit, covered, in the fridge. Work as quickly as you can, but if you’re falling behind, the refrigerator is your friend.
I hope you’ll have fun with these. They’re good any time, of course, not just for St. Patrick’s Day.
Yes, you read that correctly; I’m posting a recipe for Leprechaun Balls. There are so many jokes that will be left unsaid…probably.
These green confections are quite (ahem) firm – a cross between fudge and cookies. To make them you will need to bake a batch of green shortbread cookies, but trust me…the cookie recipe is very easy, and the balls are a slam dunk!
My shortbread recipe makes a little more than you’ll need, so you should end up with 6-8 extra cookies to munch on. I tried rolling the dough out on a cookie sheet and baking it in one piece, which worked pretty well, but it’s harder to get the center of the dough cooked completely that way. So…I recommend you make cookies, even if they’re just squares of dough. You’ll be crushing most of them, so the shape doesn’t matter.
Green shortbread is baked and crushed, then blended with Irish Cream Liqueur and Whiskey for a tasty adult treat. Makes about 36.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
green food coloring
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon milk (if needed)
3 cups crushed green shortbread (recipe above)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
¼ cup Baileys (or other Irish Cream Liqueur)
2 tablespoons Jamesons (or other whiskey)
powdered sugar and green sugar for rolling cookies in
Heat oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl (use a stand mixer if possible; this is very stiff dough) beat the butter until soft and creamy.
Add powdered sugar and mix well.
Add egg yolk and enough food coloring to create a deep green color, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl often.
Add dry ingredients. (If using a stand mixer, you may want to switch to your dough hook.) The mixture will be very dry and stiff, but should come together into a dough. If it isn't cooperating, add milk a little at a time until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and you can form it into a ball.
Roll dough out to about ¼-inch thick and cut into cookie shapes. (You can also form into small balls and press with a cookie stamp if you prefer. ) Place close together on baking sheets and bake for approximately 10-12 minutes. If you see a tiny bit of brown along the bottom edges, they are done. Don't overbake them, because green cookies turn an unpleasant color if they brown.
Cool cookies on a rack and crush in a bowl until you have 3 cups. Eat the rest!
Combine the crushed cookies, nuts, and powdered sugar in a medium bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.
Roll scant tablespoons of dough into balls and roll them in a dish of powdered sugar and colored sugar.
Refrigerate until firm. These can be served chilled, which will give them the texture of fudge, or at room temperature, which will make them a little softer.
I'm sure you know this, but just for the record: DO NOT SERVE TO MINORS.
Combine dry ingredients, then stir in wet ingredients.
Roll the balls gently in your palms, then dust with sugar.
By all means, improvise. Use walnuts instead of pecans, switch the booze around and use 1/4 cup of whiskey and 2 tablespoons of Irish cream (you may have to add a little more crushed cookie in this case), or roll them in coconut or sprinkles. Pop Rocks? Hmmmm.
Enjoy! And…hello? Keep ’em out of the reach of kiddies, of course.
For each petal on the shamrock this brings a wish your way. Good health, good luck, and happiness for today and every day. (Irish Blessing)